Loneliness is already a big problem within the senior community, especially for those who may have recently entered a care facility. These individuals could very well feel like they have just lost their freedom, and probably feel further away from friends and family than they have in a long time.
Of course, the past year has made things even more difficult. Visitations have been greatly restricted in many senior care facilities as a result of the coronavirus. This is not only due to the need to follow social distancing regulations, but also to protect the residents, which are one of the groups most vulnerable to the virus.
With all of this additional stress and lack of social engagement, many seniors are feeling increasingly disconnected. And loneliness, especially at this age, can be extremely detrimental to one’s health (even more so than smoking or obesity). The opposite is also true; when we feel connected, it is shown to positively affect individuals’ mental and emotional wellbeing.
Luckily, there are ways that senior care communities can use their spaces to better facilitate connection.
Connect with People
While seniors are probably not able to meet with their friends and family the same way that they were before social distancing, there are still ways that you can help encourage connections. Depending on the weather in your area, you should try to make as much use of your outdoor space as possible. Open-air is much safer for people to come together, as there is a much lower risk of transferring the virus.
You should also make sure that you are helping your residents connect virtually. While they may not be able to see their grandsons every month like they used to, they can still catch up via video chat (although they may need a bit of help getting this set up).
Connect with the Nature Around You
There is something that is naturally consoling about being outside, feeling the sun on your skin, and breathing in the fresh air. Nature is healing, and it can do wonders to dispel feelings of loneliness. Encourage physical activity outside as much as is possible for residents. And within the facilities, you should look for ways to incorporate biophilic design, including elements such as natural light, indoor gardens, etc.
Connect with Man’s Best Friend
Interacting with animals is greatly beneficial to our health, and has been scientifically proven to relieve stress. Many senior care facilities are welcoming of small pets like cats and dogs. And even if residents do not have pets of their own, there are still things that you can do to incorporate animals within your space. For example, having “community pets,” for whom residents share responsibilities. There are also therapy animals that can visit on a regular basis. Just keep in mind that you will need to take the appropriate hygiene and maintenance measures.